Frequently Asked Questions about hair analysis on Drugs /Alcohol
1. How does a drug test using hair work?
Hair growth is determined by blood circulation. This has enabled the development of drugs tests which can analyse drug consumption using a sample of hair.
When drug tests are carried out using a hair sample, ingrown drug molecules are detected in the inner part of the hair shaft found deep within the hair structure.
As a result external contaminations such as the use of hair treatments involving the use of bleach and other chemicals can be excluded as the cause of a positive result.
2. Which time period is covered with the drug test?
When used for drug analysis, this test can cover a hair length of a maximum 12 centimetres which is the equivalent to a year of detection. Hair lengths in between 3 and 12 centimetres can also be analysed as well.
However, for the examination of alcohol in hair there is a maximum recommended time frame of 3 months as Ethylglucuronide (EtG) can be “washed” out off the hair. This is often why the usage of a longer hair strand is often not recognized by some organisations.
3. Is your laboratory accredited?
Our partner laboratory is accredited according to DIN ISO 17025 and by that fulfills the quality standards of the Society for toxicological and forensical chemistry (GTFCh) for hair analysis.
4. How fast does hair grow?
Head hair grows with an average speed of 0, 8-1, 3 cm per month. Body hair is part of a different growth cycle and grows slower than head hair.
5. How much time has to pass before drug consumption can be detected in hair?
It takes 4-5 days until the concerned hair segment grows out of the scalp. Due to its different and considerably longer growth cycles a determination of the time frame is not possible.
6. Can the test be performed with a person who has very short or no head hair?
Hair can be sampled from different areas around the head and collected to receive the required amount of hair. As a supplement, body hair may be used. However, with body hair, a timely limitation of the detection is hardly possible. Due to the slower growth speed, it is to be expected that with body hair at least one whole year can be detected.
IMPORTANT: To receive expert reports which are valid for legal procedures, head hair has to be used in any case! Analysis with body hair might be rejected by the concerned institutions.
7. Are cross reactions with previously taken medication possible?
There is the possibility that false positive results due to cross reactivity will occur with the performed immunologic pre-screening (ELISA test). However, as positive immunologic results have to be confirmed with a confirmatory method as GC/MS (gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry) in any case, false positive results due to cross reactivity will not occur.
8. Can the hair colour influence the test result?
The hair colour is determined by the melanin proportion in hair. Experimental studies have proven that the hair colour does not have an influence on the test results.
9. Can hair collected from e.g. a hair brush be used for the analysis?
No, we do not recommend sending in hair samples from hair brushes or similar sources as cushions or clothes. Such hair samples can be contaminated or originate from another person. Such hair samples will not be processed by the laboratory.
10. Is this test comparable to drug testing in urine or saliva?
The largest differences are:
- much longer detection periods with hair analysis
- in case of hair analysis, a falsification of the sample is not possible
48 hours after consumption the drugs Cocaine, Amphetamines and Opiates are not detectable in saliva, 72 hours after consumption they are not detectable anymore in urine.
The detection period in hair is solely determined by the length of the hair sample. However, with alcohol (EtG) not more than 3 months can be detected.
11. How long does it take for me to receive my results?
After the hair sample arrives in the laboratory it takes up to 10 work days (weekends and holidays are not included) until the results are available. Processing times can vary. If the immunological pre-screening shows a positive result and therefore needs to be confirmed, the processing time will be prolonged accordingly.
12. How are results interpreted?
Results show if the test is positive or negative for a drug or drug group.
Additionally the report indicates if the consumption has been occasional, regular or chronic.
13. How do I get a report usable for legislative procedures?
It is necessary to observe certain regulations to guarantee the official usability of the report. In that sense it states in the judgment criteria: “The sample material was collected and transferred to the laboratory in a way that the toxicological examination for abstinence testing or the detection of the current alcohol/drug usage on the examination day can reliably reflect the current status of the examined individual.”
Sampling has to be done by an authorized individual, e.g. family doctor, toxicologist or trained laboratory staff.
- Presentation of the ID (doctor has to confirm the identity of the individual).
- Sampling done by authorized individual (e.g. family doctor)
- For sampling, at least one strand of hair (about pencil thick) has to be removed directly over the scalp. The remaining length (if existent) on the head is documented.
- Obtained sample material may not be given back to the donator, but has to be sent out by the sampler.
- The sampler has to fill out the appropriate field for authorized sampling on the request form and sign it. At the same time this is the confirmation that all conditions were met.
14. In which cases is a hair analysis recommendable?
There are several cases when there is a need to be sure if someone has a drug problem or you want to detect that a problem is present.
- Proof of abstinence to prove fitness to drive (corresponding to the German MPU)
- Custody Cases
- Probation due to drug related crimes
- Safety sensitive jobs
- Suspicion of drug abuse of an employee/ colleague
- Proof of trustworthiness, e.g. leaders, armed forces etc.
- Screening within the scope of clinical studies
- Suitability for surgeries
Hair analysis/urinalysis order - how it works!
If you want to order one of our hair analysis/urine tests:
1. Go to Hair analysis/urine analysis on our online shop and order the analysis you need.
2. We will send you all the necessary materials and information, for shipping the samples to the lab.
3. Take the sample (or let it take by an authorized sample collector) and insert the sample into the enclosed and addressed envelope, following the instructions and send it to the lab!
4. The results will then be sent to the specified address. The average processing time of the lab result is 10 working days. The laboratory processing time for express analysis is 5 working days. Each stated processing time will be extended, in the event that additional confirmation analysis is required.
Do you have a special request? Or can you not find the Parameters you are looking for?
No problem. Send us an e-mail, we will advise you about other parameters, and special tests.